Correlation of Shoulder and Elbow Kinetics With Ball Velocity in Collegiate Baseball Pitchers

Eric G Post, Kevin G Laudner, Todd A McLoda, Regan Wong, Keith Meister
Journal of Athletic Training 2015, 50 (6): 629-33

CONTEXT: Throwing a baseball is a dynamic and violent act that places large magnitudes of stress on the shoulder and elbow. Specific injuries at the elbow and glenohumeral joints have been linked to several kinetic variables throughout the throwing motion. However, very little research has directly examined the relationship between these kinetic variables and ball velocity.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the correlation of peak ball velocity with elbow-valgus torque, shoulder external-rotation torque, and shoulder-distraction force in a group of collegiate baseball pitchers.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Motion-analysis laboratory.

PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-seven asymptomatic National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I baseball pitchers (age = 19.5 ± 1.2 years, height = 186.2 ± 5.7 cm, mass = 86.7 ± 7.0 kg; 48 right handed, 19 left handed).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): We measured peak ball velocity using a radar gun and shoulder and elbow kinetics of the throwing arm using 8 electronically synchronized, high-speed digital cameras. We placed 26 reflective markers on anatomical landmarks of each participant to track 3-dimensional coordinate data. The average data from the 3 highest-velocity fastballs thrown for strikes were used for data analysis. We calculated a Pearson correlation coefficient to determine the associations between ball velocity and peak elbow-valgus torque, shoulder-distraction force, and shoulder external-rotation torque (P < .05).

RESULTS: A weak positive correlation was found between ball velocity and shoulder-distraction force (r = 0.257; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.02, 0.47; r(2) = 0.066; P = .018). However, no significant correlations were noted between ball velocity and elbow-valgus torque (r = 0.199; 95% CI = -0.043, 0.419; r(2) = 0.040; P = .053) or shoulder external-rotation torque (r = 0.097; 95% CI = -0.147, 0.329; r(2) = 0.009; P = .217).

CONCLUSIONS: Although a weak positive correlation was present between ball velocity and shoulder-distraction force, no significant association was seen between ball velocity and elbow-valgus torque or shoulder external-rotation torque. Therefore, other factors, such as improper pitching mechanics, may contribute more to increases in joint kinetics than peak ball velocity.

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